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Jerry & George & Kramer & Elaine

The stars of ‘Seinfeld’ expose the secrets of its success

Seinfeld

The 'Seinfeld' cast.

George Lange/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

NOW DAWNS THE AGE of Nothing. Once, not so long ago, people thought little of Nothing. They pretended Nothing ever happened when, in fact, Nothing was happening all around them. Back then, Meaning was everything, and people sought only larger truth. Those who dared to ponder the Meaning of Nothing could not expect to be taken seriously. Fortunately, one such man did not let this stop him. He spoke out fervently about not much of anything, about the implications of socks and cereal and pens and pockets about Nothing, really and always he was laughed at. Because this man was a comedian, he took the derision well. Eventually, he was given a television show on which to not do a lot. Like him, the show was called Seinfeld, and it dwelled on matters mundane. Each week, Nothing gloriously transpired as characters waited in lines, looked for parking space, smelled things or tried not to masturbate. “Even nothing is something,” Seinfeld himself would say during an episode in the show’s fourth season. Soon thereafter, people began to invest new pride in how little they did. All of a sudden, you realized you couldn’t even really know another person until you saw him or her do Nothing.

But what about these Seinfeld people? Yes, they do Nothing on television, do it in a way all others envy. But what about in life? To sate our curiosity, the four principal cast mates agreed to let themselves be watched not doing very much. By name and role, they are Michael Richards, as the peculiar neighbor Kramer; Jason Alexander, as the desperate friend George Costanza; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as the platonic heroine Elaine Benes; and Jerry Seinfeld, as himself, more or less, the calm center around which all manner of Nothing revolves. What follows are details of how each of them rose to a pronounced lack of occasion.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF KRAMER

HE GREETS THE DAY FUZZILY. He leaves his bed to open the door, which he does slowly, unlike Kramer, who prefers his doors flung with velocity. Kramer makes entrances, explosive and erratic, for which no door is safe. There is dire purpose in his every intrusion. “You got any meat?” he said, for instance, upon his first Seinfeld entrance four years ago. Michael Richards, who is Kramer, has arisen this morning to open his door for movers. His daughter is moving out and into her first apartment, and men have come to take away her things. “I want to watch them,” he says, “because this is comedy, you know.” Richards watches for comedy everywhere and always sees it. “Their van is parked on a bit of a hill,” he says, “so it could easily roll backward, up the curb, over a flower bed and into a tree, and it could be kind of funny.” This does not happen, but he sees it anyway. “I think those guys just fell over a hedge,” he says next, peering out a window. They didn’t. But that is how he sees.

THE HAIR ALSO RISES. “This is not the way I amuse myself,” he recently said on The Tonight Show. “This is the way I am.” Because he has become a national oddity, coffee mugs bear his likeness, with the legend I’M HUMAN IN MY WAY. Worshipful men gather about Richards in public places and chant: “Kra-mer! Kra-mer!” “If I could arm these people,” he says, “I could take a country over.” Women yearn to touch his hair, which stands tall, as does he, at six feet two, not counting hair. “It’s electric,” he says, meaning the hair. “It just goes whoooom! It’s interesting. It just took its own shape. It’s fascinating.” For summer, there has been a haircut, although, fresh out of bed, it looks spry as ever. “It is like a back-to-nature look, isn’t it?”

WE ARE LOCKED OUT OF THE HOUSE. “For a single man, it’s fine,” he says of his house, a large California ranch-style structure in Studio City, near where Seinfeld is filmed. At forty-three, Richards is genially divorced from his wife of eighteen years, who is, conveniently, a family therapist. “This place is basically just for me,” he says, showing me ongoing renovations. “It’s tranquil.” But suddenly a gust of wind blows a door shut, and we are trapped in an unfinished addition. “Well, there we go again — to Kramerland,” he sighs, as though it were a familiar journey, and he begins knocking loudly to regain entry. He pounds for minutes and says nothing until a mover readmits us.

KRAMER HAS A FIRST NAME. There is, in fact, an actual Kramer. That Kramer lived in New York, across the hall from Larry David, the writer who created Seinfeld with his friend Seinfeld. “He was a jack-of-all-trades — he still is,” says Richards of his prototype. “He’s just a hustler.” Kramer, it’s said, was the sort of man who paid $400 rent on an $1800 apartment. He lived by mysterious means. He had free access to Larry David’s place. His first name, like his fictional counterpart’s, is a secret. “We just never talk about it,” says Larry Charles, Seinfeld‘s supervising producer, who gave TV Kramer his unspoken name. “It’s a funny name, too,” teases Larry David. If Richards knows it, he doesn’t say.

HE STEALS FRUIT TO THROW AT A GUY. “Hey, let’s pick a tangerine,” he says, plucking two of them from a tree belonging to his neighbor. “They’re Dr. Joseph’s,” he says, tossing one over generously. “Have a Dr. Joseph tangerine.” He spots a guy walking past his house. “See if you can hit that man over there with your tangerine,” he says to me. “Come on, do it. I’ll give you $100. I swear. He’s getting away.” How to react if there is contact: “You just say that you didn’t mean it,” Richards says. “Don’t even acknowledge it. Just hit him!” Meanwhile, he has already eaten his own purloined tangerine, which he found pleasantly sweet.

KRAMER SMELLS LIKE ETERNITY. Calvin Klein said of Kramer, “His buttocks are sublime.” This happened in the episode where Kramer creates a fragrance called the Beach, which recalls beach smell; Calvin Klein (played by an actor) appropriates the concept for a new scent called Ocean and repays Kramer by photographing him for an underwear ad. After the show aired, the real Klein shipped Richards vast supplies of Eternity for Men, which he has ever since splashed on before tapings — to further demark Kramer’s presence. Says Richards, “I work very hard to make this character three-dimensional.” Charles concurs: “He’s not a simplistic character at all. Kramer is full of facets and contradictions; he’s real and unreal; he’s like an adult and a child; he’s like neutered yet very sexual; he’s very fight yet very dark; he can be idiotic and yet very wise.”

HE TEASES A VERY OLD MAN WEARING SOCKS. Across the street from Richards, there lives the shoeless octogenarian. He walks the streets in only socks. We see him now padding along the pavement. “Hey, Captain!” Richards hollers after him. “He was a great psychiatrist and studied with Freud,” he tells me. “He’s crazy but brilliant.” “My brother!” says the Captain, greeting Richards, kindred spirits enjoined. “I’m going to be eighty-five soon,” says the Captain. “You look eighty-four and a half,” says Richards, whom the Captain seems to be studying keenly, as though eyeing a lost specimen.

HIS BODY EMITS NOISE. “You can hear my spine cracking,” says Richards, settling into his Lexus, and he is right. Vertebrae pop audibly. “It twists,” he says, “from yoga.” He is a spiritual fellow, happiest on a mountainside, pondering Eastern religion and Greek myths. He and Kramer wear a crystal around their neck. Though he looks otherwise, he was born Californian, which might explain the above. “I am an eccentricity specialist,” he will say of his work, and what he means is that he has always been physical and unusual. “He can break one second down into a hundred distinct parts,” says Seinfeld, who enjoys watching him do anything. (Richards would rather do funny than say funny.) On Fridays, the bad early Eighties comedy show for which he was best known, Richards did things like burn plastic soldiers and wear dresses. As a boy, he feigned seizures in supermarkets. His heroes are Chaplin and Tati, and he aspires to make comic short-subject films in which he can frequently fall down: “I would love to do things in the area of Sellers.” Onscreen this summer, he will be the first human encountered by the Coneheads.

HE WORKS ON HIS EXITS. “We don’t know too much about Kramer’s personal life,” he says, predicting the disclosure of a former Mrs. Kramer and off-spring. Mostly, however, he wishes Kramer would leave more. “Exits are show stoppers,” he says, knowing he has made the most of entrances. Later he demonstrates various momentous departures at a nearby restaurant, while customers gawk. Repeatedly, he crashes softly into a wall. Then he sits down and reaches for bread. “Eat the bread,” he says. “Yeast is good for your hair.”

GEORGE NEEDS BETTER EQUIPMENT

WOODY ALLEN ATE NO YEAST HERE. This is where Alvy Singer lost Annie Hall forever, after ordering the plate of mashed yeast that never came. Moments later, he was arrested in the parking lot. This is the Source health-food restaurant, on Sunset Boulevard, where I find Jason Alexander, who is George Costanza, who is not unlike Woody Allen in character. George is beset and bespectacled. Alexander is neither, although he does squint. He is a younger man than George, who he figures is “pushing forty, I’d say.” Alexander is thirty-three, pink and elfin, given at any time to sudden bursts of singing and dancing. He is a Tony Award-winning Broadway refugee now gone west, where both money and diets are more plentiful. “My first day of a new diet!” he has just announced, having explored his share. “This is the Maximum Metabolism diet.” He extracts several tablets from a pillbox and swallows one at a time, saying, “This one kills your hunger pang, this one kills your sugar pang. . . .” Then he orders eggless tuna salad.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIM AND FABIO. Fabio is sitting on the other side of the restaurant, and this is who he is: Fabio is the Perfect Man, impossibly attractive, whose long-haired, bare-chested likeness has appeared on the cover of hundreds of romance paperbacks. No woman can resist him. “He’s a very handsome man,” says Alexander, appreciatively, blowing his nose. “Actually, he’s a very good friend of mine, Fabio. I’m the one who said to him: ‘Fabio, grow the hair! Let the hair grow.'” Regarding hair, Alexander himself has been balding since age seventeen. “I never had a good year,” he moans. “I had nine years of orthodontia, and the day the braces came off, the hair started falling out. My father is eighty-three years old and has a full head of black hair!” He grows bitter and contemplative. “Maybe he’s not my father.”

WHY GEORGE IS ALSO A SEX SYMBOL. When George is seen with a woman, she is usually a remarkable woman. “George gets great women,” says Alexander, eating tuna. “You know why that is? For the first three seasons, Jerry was very uncomfortable being an actor. He didn’t want to do anything he didn’t feel comfortable doing, like getting angry or having a romantic scene. At that point, they didn’t feel Kramer could be a secret weapon to women. So the only guy left was me. I got thrown all of Jerry’s refuse.” Of his own off-camera allure, he says, “I do well with the moms of babes.” Long ago, however, he cohabited in New York with spitfire actress Holly Hunter, if only platonically. “I had a thing for Holly,” he now confesses, “but nothing ever happened. I actually first dated my wife thinking it would make Holly jealous and kick-start something between us. It just backfired.” Eleven years ago he married Daena Title, a writer, whom he instantly wanted upon that first date. Last year, they produced an in vitro son. “He’s a test-tube baby,” says Alexander, beaming. “He was spawned in a dish.”

SOMEBODY ELSE PLAYS GEORGE IN REAL LIFE. On TV, George is the best friend of Jerry Seinfeld, who is Larry David’s best friend off TV. David and Seinfeld modeled the series on their rapport: “We wanted the show to be about those idiotic conversations we have all the time,” says David, meaning about Nothing. Thus, when we see George and Jerry discuss how the words seltzer and salsa might confuse a Mexican waiter, we see David and Seinfeld. “George is Larry David’s id,” says Larry Charles. “He embodies all the dark impulses that Larry David has occasionally acted upon.” Alexander frets: “There are times when George walks the line of really being kind of hateful, but ultimately his heart’s in the right place.” Indeed, Seinfeld has said that a George spinoff could only be titled This Poor Man. Even so, “George is not a loser,” says Charles. “People inaccurately pigeonhole him. He’s struggling, but he’s definitely not a loser.”

NOBODY PLAYS JASON ALEXANDER IN REAL LIFE. “Nobody drives like me,” George once said proudly. “I’m doing things in this car you have no idea are going on!” Inside Alexander’s Toyota, we nudge perilously into traffic, sustaining honks from many sides. “I still think I’m on my motorcycle, that’s my problem,” he says, nervously. Once he rode, but now he drives. The name on his California driver’s license is Jay Greenspan, his name since birth, in New Jersey; Alexander is his father’s first name. In Los Angeles, Jay Greenspan drives what he fondly calls “a 1988 piece of shit.” “Jerry, God bless him, with his Porsches,” he chuckles. “I would never spend money on an automobile! It means nothing to me.”

HE WAS CAUGHT, NOT ALONE, IN A CAR. An erotic man, Alexander is becoming known for irrepressible carnality. In the film Pretty Woman we saw him sexually molest Julia Roberts. “I was the Scumball of the United States,” he says sheepishly. “I struck Julia Roberts.” Later, as George, he found himself aroused during a massage given by a man. “It moved!” he said, panicked. Then, off camera in the infamous episode “The Contest,” George was caught by his mother, masturbating to a copy of Glamour. Now Alexander confesses: “I did actually get caught, not in a masturbation thing. But when I was eighteen, my girlfriend and I were at it pretty hot and heavy in the back seat of a car when a cop threw a light in there. That was no fun. I lost a little more hair that evening.”

HE BUYS $1400 WORTH OF TELEPHONES. “I’m not a shopper,” he says, but we are, nevertheless, shopping for multiline phones and fax machines at the Good Guys’. “George!” says the salesman, by way of greeting. “Are your prices the best?” says Alexander, not waiting for a reply. Much merchandise is hastily acquired, as Alexander dances around the store, a spendthrift sprite. He noodles on keyboards, playing the show tunes he so loves. But something is obviously weighing on his mind, and it turns out to be Fabio. “I keep thinking about him,” he says, agitated. “What bothers me about guys like that is they can walk into any clothing store, pick up a shirt, put it on, walk out — and it looks great!” He squints hard, stewing. “That’s never happened in my life!

LOOKING FOR STUFF WITH ELAINE

SHE BREAKS HER FAST WITH SOUR CHERRIES. Back in Manhattan, her cradle of origin, here is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, hyphenated, caffeinated, eating hot prunes she does not want. “Where are the sour cherries?” she asks, perplexed, in the dining room of the St. Regis Hotel, where she is a registered guest. “I don’t like this one bit.” She is a child of Park Avenue, now thirty-two, grown into a lustrous comedienne, sly and comely and regular. As Elaine Benes, former girlfriend of TV character Seinfeld, she is a woman men want and women want to be. Meanwhile Louis-Dreyfus — Louie-Dreyfus for those who pronounce — wants this: cherries, not prunes, for breakfast. Even so, she eats three prunes until a waiter remembers that it was someone else who ordered them. “I just got three free prunes!” she says, exultant, once the error is corrected. Her sour cherries arrive, beneath a creamy glop of something beige. “What is that shit?” she says, mystified anew. “What the hell is going on here?”

HER HUSBAND SPEAKS OF HER GENITALIA. Previously on Seinfeld, Jerry said of Elaine: “She enjoys teasing animals; Ban-Lon; and seeing people running for their lives. She loves throwing garbage out the window, yet she’s extremely dainty.” Also, Elaine knows baseball, drinks scotch and masturbates. Among men, she is treated as a man, albeit one with insight. “In return” Louis-Dreyfus has said, “I treat each of them as one of the girls.” As one of the boys, Elaine is unprecedented on television. “It’s not a gender-specific kind of comedy,” she says, amid cherries. Here her husband, Brad Hall, who is breakfasting along, says this: “It doesn’t matter whether or not Elaine’s a woman — she has the same lusts and feelings that all guys have. The only woman-specific thing about her is her genitalia.” This he says with great authority.

ELAINE’S SEX LIFE WITH JERRY, RECONSTRUCTED. Unlike Elaine, Louis-Dreyfus does not run with ex-boyfriends. (Lore has it that Elaine is loosely based on Seinfeld’s stand-up cohort Carol Leifer, whom he dated briefly in the late Seventies.) As it is, the ranks of her old boyfriends are thin — the price paid for meeting her mate at age nineteen. She and Hall were yearlings together in Chicago’s improvisational Practical Theater Company, after which they did hard time on Saturday Night Live during the laughless early Eighties. Less is known about Elaine’s beginnings with Jerry or, for that matter, how it all went wrong. “There was a little problem with the physical chemistry,” Jerry said in the second episode. Larry Charles disagrees: “They had a very good sexual history,” he says, sounding less than certain. Recently Jerry recalled: “She likes talking during sex . . . just chitchat, movies, current events, regular stuff.” On a whim, they had sex at the end of the show’s second season and never spoke of it again. “Evidently, it was a great reunion,” says Louis-Dreyfus, tentatively. “My theory is that Jerry and Elaine will get married one day, but she’ll be forty-eight and he’ll be fiftysomething. Then they’ll get divorced six months later.”

ROSEANNE CALLED HER A BITCH ON ‘LETTERMAN.’ As widely reported last March, Louis-Dreyfus was instructed to park her car, for one day, where Tom Arnold usually parks his car, at the Studio City lot that is home to both parties. Thus inconvenienced, Arnold left her an obscene note; she confronted him; other notes followed (even after she parked elsewhere), plus a Polaroid of some unidentified buttocks and the word cunt soaped on her windshield. Roseanne Arnold, who is said to have done some of the soaping, later issued half-hearted apologies, then accused Seinfeld of self-importance. “They think they’re doing Samuel Beckett instead of a sitcom,” she said. “I am willing to make a bet that she has never read anything Beckett ever wrote,” says Jason Alexander, who would like to say more but won’t because of a Seinfeld gag order on matters Arnold. Declares Michael Richards, “Julia is obviously being fucked with, and I want to expose the truth!” But he can’t. (Otherwise eschewing comment, Louis-Dreyfus urges that the caption beneath the group cover photo read, DON’T PARK IN OUR FUCKIN’ SPACE! “That,” she says, “would be the coolest.”)

THESE BUSES ARE MAKING HER SLEEPY. “I love the sound of a bus,” she says, wistfully. “I can’t tell you how this takes me back!” Out on Fifth Avenue, we listen to buses go by but board none. Reared uptown (her father is a French-born capitalist and lawyer), she spent years sleeping to the low rumble of traffic. Now, away from the relative soundlessness of Los Angeles (where the Halls dwell with their baby son, Henry), she is reliving the din of her youth. “Oh, I’m so happy right now!” she says. But this could well be because we are walking toward Bergdorf Goodman, where she needs stuff. “Follow me,” she says.

HER HEAD IS VERY BIG. “It’s nobody’s business where I buy my shoes!” Elaine once ranted, shielding her Botticelli shoes from the clutches of envious women. Still, there is much to learn from a woman in a fine store. That she hates herself in gray, for instance: “Gray looks like shit on me,” she says. “I’m a dog in gray.” That she is easily lost: “How do we get off this floor?” That hats make her dizzy: “I can’t wear one longer than an hour without my head spinning.” That her head is larger than those of her co-workers: “The big head? It’s gigantic! We measured the widths of our faces in rehearsal one day, and I came out ahead of the entire cast. I’m the shortest person with the widest face.”

SHE THINKS ELAINE NEEDS NEW FRIENDS. “Definitely,” she says, knowing truth is brutal. “The reality is that these four characters are a pathetic group, and they should disassemble promptly. I mean, if you stand back from it and look at what happens every week, they do terrible things to one another. And yet they continue to hang out. It’s sociopathic. It’s nuts! This is a sick group of people.”

JERRY GETS A LIGHT BULB

THE MASTER IS IN HIS DOMAIN. He is home, encased within his Fortress of Solitude, fifteen floors above Central Park West — the apartment where Nothing happens best. He has been called the Father of Nothing, but he is neither a father nor a husband. He is a hero bachelor, desired by thousands of women, entrapped by none. “You know what your problem is?” Elaine once said to him, or to the character with whom he shares his name. “Your standards are too high.” Him [defensive]: “I went out with you!” Her: “That’s because my standards are too low.” (In what passes for real life, he insists, “I disqualify no one.”) At present, Jerry Seinfeld is thirty-nine, the eternal age of Jack Benny, whose memory he invokes by quietly filling the core of his own show. “He draws attention to himself without having to try,” says Larry Charles. “He almost becomes the center by doing nothing.” Which is what I have just found him doing — staring out of his corner windows at the lush acreage below. “It’s great fun watching the seasons change from up here,” he says, now watching spring lengthen and doing it peerlessly.

HE ANNOUNCES FUTURE CEREAL PLANS. “I’m going to have cereal in about ten minutes,” he says, checking his watch. Seinfeld is a man of organization, not fussy so much as disciplined. For instance, if there is to be midafternoon cereal, it will occur in midafternoon or not at all. “My hobby,” he says, “is identifying little behavior difficulties and eliminating them. I’m constantly working on better breakfast systems and getting-dressed systems. Lately, I’m experimenting with putting my socks on while standing up. I have a large walk-in closet in my LA. house, and there’s no chair in there. To put the socks on sitting down, I would have to walk a long way out of the closet. So I’m experimenting with a new system.” Because of such proficiency at problem solving, he has never seen fit to seek therapy. “There’s nothing in life that I haven’t thought about,” he says, awash in self-knowledge.

THERE IS NO DOUBLE CRUNCH, BUT THERE IS HOPE. Both Jerrys, raised on Long Island, live in the same Manhattan neighborhood: the Upper West Side. His real apartment, however, is nothing like his TV apartment, which is falsely rumored to resemble his previous real apartment, two blocks away. “If I’d had an apartment that good, I’d probably still be there,” he says. Anyway, Real Jerry dwells starkly, as per Zen, yet expensively, because he can. His is a swell black and gray place (“alien tech, I call it”) whose door stays locked, thus foiling Krameresque pop-ins from fellow tenant Pierre Salinger. Also unlike TV: Seventeen cereal boxes do not line his shelves; there are just three (Cheerios, shredded wheat, Health Valley granola), kept cold, inside a near-barren refrigerator. “But I just got back to town,” he says. “I haven’t quite gotten up to speed.” Cereal, of course, fuels his life force; he must have it and have it often. Ten minutes having elapsed, he says, “I’m going to make cereal now.” How he does it: His bowl is enormous (“That’s my Jethro bowl!”). He mixes in up to four brands per serving; today, he lays a granola base, tops it with Cheerios, then adds pure maple syrup and skim milk. After consuming all cereal, he gulps down the liquid residue. “That,” he states, “is the nectar of the gods.” He is now ready to fight crime.

WHY WOMEN WANT HIM. He is elusive. He is self-sufficient. He parallel-parks flawlessly: “Girls love to see me pull in,” he says. Mostly, he dallies with models, because they are safe. Still, his restraint is exemplary: In “The Contest,” he tied with George in abstaining the longest from masturbating, in life, he discovered masturbation at college. “His image is that of the perfect catch,” says Charles. “He’s a nice Jewish boy, very content with what he has. He’s not in a rush or desperate; he’s like this placid lake whose surface is never broken. Onstage or off, he’s never in character, or on — he’s just him.” Seinfeld attributes this to his discomfort with acting: “Actors love to extend themselves. As a comedian, I don’t want to do anything. I’m like ‘Can I just wear my own pants in this scene?‘” Thus far, his greatest acting feat on the show was portraying his own penis in a chess game. “My motivation there was get more blood,” he says, recalling technique. “Must get blood.”

HE GETS GREAT QUANTITIES OF MULVA. Seinfeld fans are a scholarly lot, known to memorize dialogue and repeat it to each other. When out doing stand-up, Seinfeld constantly hears these catch phrases hurled forth. “I’m getting a lot of ‘Mulva,'” he says, which refers to a character who hinted that her name rhymed with something anatomical. “Are those the panties your mother laid out for you?” TV Jerry once said to a woman, instantly repulsing her. “Is that the suit your mother laid out for you?” audiences now yell at him.

HIS LIFE AS THE KING OF NEW YORK. “I’m the king of New York,” he says, out walking the streets, receiving his public with warmth and courtesy. Wholly accessible, he faults no one for thinking they know him personally: “They’re in their homes seeing me play myself in my house.” Around New York, Seinfeld sightings are the most common of celebrity sightings, since he is not a reclusive king. “The only time I’m truly content is when I’m here,” he says happily. True to legend, his secret powers allow him to find logic shrouded in the chaos, order in the disorder. “He’s almost like a child who sees things with a whole different perception than you,” says Charles. “He sees universal wisdom in Bic pens.” What he sees now are light bulbs, the objective of our mission. (“Think of it as a metaphor — comedian looking for an idea,” he suggests.) On Amsterdam Avenue, we find a hardware store; miraculously, steps from the entrance is the bulb display. It is clear that he is not unaccustomed to things going his way. “I’m an instinctual guy,” he says, shrugging. He pulls from his jacket the bulb he has come to replace — “an obscure refrigerator light bulb” — and obtains a new one, plus a backup. “I won’t be coming back here again soon,” he says, all swagger. Momentum gathered, he stops in at a nearby locksmith and purchases a basic key ring “that’s a beauty!” — for twenty-five cents. “This is my idea of utopia, doing things like this,” he says. “I could do this all day. In fact, if you can find something to do that’s less than this, my hat is off!”

HE BESTOWS HIS FORTUNE UPON A BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. We sit on a bench across from his building and see a stunning dark-haired woman hail a cab. “She’s very cute,” he says, watching her speed away. “Nice look.” No woman escapes his gaze, and lately his gaze is more intent than ever on finding a life mate. He lists among his obstacles wardrobe considerations: “I have no dating wardrobe really. I’m one sport jacket and a pair of brown loafers away from real commitment.” But suddenly, the dark-haired woman reappears before us. “There she is again!” he says as she lopes over. She has forced her cab to return so that she could beg an autograph, handing over a blank check for him to sign. “We were admiring you,” he says pluckily. “We were saying, ‘Boy, that’s the perfect look!'” He inscribes her check and, under the amount, writes, “Millions.” After she leaves, he smiles broadly and says: “She’s going to make some guy very happy. She made me very happy. And my mother says to me, ‘How are you ever going to meet a girl?'”

FOUR CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN ENDING

SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT. They all converge, against the odds, to blur reality, to test spontaneity, to frighten other diners. It is a warm night on Columbus Avenue, where they now meet for late alfresco food and fellowship at a place called Isabella’s. (Seinfeld chose it.) They come as themselves, by themselves (except for Richards, who brings his daughter, Sophia), but they resemble their characters nevertheless. Seinfeld arrives first, followed by Louis-Dreyfus, then by Alexander, who has been waiting for fifteen minutes at the wrong restaurant across the street. Richards comes once the others have been seated at an outdoor table, where all the ensuing Nothing takes place.

JERRY PICKS. He selects the wine, white, and then says of the restaurant: “We referred to this place on a show one time as a place I was uncomfortable with. I thought it was too pretentious.” Louis-Dreyfus says: “I’d like to point out that he chose this restaurant for us to get together. What does that tell you?” Oblivious, Richards urgently intejects, “You guys ready to order?”

THEY OFFER TO GET NAKED. Alexander and Louis-Dreyfus are in New York to play husband and wife in the forthcoming Rob Reiner movie North. They say their marital chemistry comes easily. Alexander says, “Actually, we play George and Elaine as if they were husband and wife — the bickering and the simmering sexuality.” To which Seinfeld says: “Beneath the surface, we try to inject a simmering sexuality between all of the characters. Between me and Kramer, between Kramer and George — it’s all simmering sex.” And then:

JASON: I’ve seen Julia naked.
JULIA: You did not. When?
JASON: Our dressing rooms on the show are separated by a curtain.
JULIA: And you peeked through?
JASON [shrugs]: I don’t peek.
JULIA: Jason Alexander! Do you really?
JASON: I get a pretty hard shadow on my curtain sometimes.
JULIA: I gotta tell you, I’d be happy to take my clothes off any time, and we’ll get it over with.
JERRY: I’ll take mine off! I’m in top shape.
JULIA: Well, I’d prefer if you didn’t.
MICHAEL [oblivious, noticing weather]: Ahh, this is lovely! This breeze! What a night!

JULIA LICKS. She asks for a bite of Seinfeld’s bread. To be polite, he offers her the unbitten end. Taking this to be germ-consciousness, she proceeds to lick the bread on both sides. “There, now it’s ruined!” she says to him. He inspects the bread and sticks it in his shirt pocket. “You couldn’t be more wrong,” he says covetously. Whereupon she says, “I’ll lick anything.”

HOW SHE LICKS. Elaine once taunted Jerry on a show by leaving anonymous filthy messages on his tape recorder. “I’m going to slide my tongue around you like a snake,” she said huskily. Now Louis Dreyfus says, “That was nowhere near as dirty as I thought it should be.” Seinfeld says, “I’ll tell ya, the idea of a snake sliding around me is not appealing.” She goes on: “To be honest, I would have gone so much farther.” There is a long silence. “Really,” says Alexander, with great interest.

THEY ARE KISSED BY A DRUNKEN WOMAN. They are accosted suddenly by an unsteady woman in business attire, who announces: “You don’t have to say anything — you just have to let people come up and kiss you, like this, so they can tell their friends the next day, ‘I kissed Kramer.'” (She kisses Richards’s cheek) “‘I kissed George.'” (Now Alexander’s.) “‘And I kissed Jerrrrr-reeeeeee!'” (Here, she plants one upon Seinfeld with ferocity.) She sees Louis-Dreyfus. “It’s Elaine!” she says, not kissing her. “Elaine, talk to me about men!” “You’re very unique,” Alexander tells her, not unkindly. Embarrassed, she says, “Now I’m leaving.” Richards, charmed, says: “Wait, what’s your name? You’re fun.”

THEY FORESEE THEIR IMMINENT DEATHS. “Who would you say is least like their character?” Seinfeld asks, nominating Alexander. Louis-Dreyfus agrees but thinks Richards is close.

JERRY: Really? I wouldn’t say that.
JULIA: Michael’s not like Kramer.
JERRY: I’m not saying in the same way. But he’s off the beaten path equally. Equally distant.
MICHAEL [oblivious, keeping his eyes on the woman who kissed them, now out on the street]: I’m just watching that woman. She crossed the street, then she sat on a fire hydrant, now she’s walking back.
JASON: Watch, she’s gonna come back with a gun and say: “I shot Kramer! And I shot George! And I shot Jerrrrreeeeeee!”

JULIA PULLS A KNIFE ON JERRY. The body of Louis-Dreyfus is once again in question. The men remark on how impressively she slenderized after giving birth last year. Chewing bread, Seinfeld posits the following theory:

JERRY: I think you’ve got one of those bodies.
JULIA: No, I don’t.
JERRY: You do.
JULIA: No, I don’t! I don’t, Jerry!
JERRY: Julia, you do.
JULIA: Damn it! I don’t! [She grasps cutlery, holds it near his throat.]
MICHAEL: Can I have some bread?

THEY GROW HUNGRY AND RESTLESS. “I’d like to take this moment to apologize for the service we’re getting in this restaurant,” says Seinfeld, slightly perturbed.

JULIA: I will accept that apology reticently.
JERRY: We are the kings and queen of New York. What’s our waiter’s name?
JULIA: I think someone just spit on me.
WAITER [flustered]: Our computers crashed, so we’re behind.
JERRY: Do you think that happens to the chefs of France?
MICHAEL [confused]: My salad was made by a computer?

Food arrives.

JERRY: See, as soon as you complain …
MICHAEL [distracted, staring at the street]: Uh-oh! She walked three blocks up that way, and now she’s coming back

WHO WOULD TAKE A BULLET FOR JERRY? “Let me tell you something,” says Alexander, consuming pasta. “If anything happens to Jerry, my life’s not worth living! I’m a million and a half in debt right now. I’d take a bullet in a minute. Take my arm, go ahead! I’ll give up an arm right here.” Touched, Seinfeld assures him: “We’d still keep you on the show with one arm. Like that drummer in Def Leppard. Now, that guy has job security.”

JERRY GOES TO THE BATHROOM AND LOSES HIS SEAT. “Okay, he’s gone,” says Louis-Dreyfus. “Let’s reveal the truth!” Alexander wiggles his pinky finger. “He’s hung like this,” he says. Richards, oblivious, says he wants to wear his bathrobe on Regis and Kathie Lee the next morning. At which point Seinfeld executive producer Larry David shows up, having just been to a Knicks game. He takes Seinfeld’s chair, knowing it will displease him. “What is this?” says Seinfeld, displeased, upon returning. Discussion ensues about how Seinfeld hates having his stuff touched, prompting an idea for an episode in which Jerry sublets his apartment.

LARRY: You are the last person in the world who would ever sublet to another person.
JERRY: I’m annoyed already.
LARRY: When his own mother comes to town, he takes her straight to a hotel.
JERRY [shrugs]: A friend was recently using my bathroom for No. 2, and I objected. I said, “Do you have to do that in here?” He said, “It’s a toilet!” I said, “Nevertheless.”

GEORGE WINS IN THE END. Always it comes back to masturbation: There remains a major controversy, thus a need for resolution.

JERRY: People are still asking who won the contest. That won’t go away.
LARRY: I thought it was clear that you and George tied.
JERRY: Nobody wants a tie.
JULIA: Money should change hands.
JERRY: Nobody called the bet off officially.
JASON [inspired]: I should still be, you know, abstaining. I could say, four episodes into next season, “I’m still the Master of My Domain!” Jerry could say, “You’re still doing that?
JERRY [laughs]: I’d say, “What, are you kidding? It’s over!
JASON: “Nobody said anything to me! Where’s the money?”

In This Article: Coverwall, Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld

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